Brainstorming: Generating Many Radical, Creative Ideas (2022)

How often have you used brainstorming to solve a problem? Chances are, you've used it at least once, even if you didn't realize it.

For decades, people have used brainstorming to generate ideas, and to come up with creative solutions to problems. However, you need to use brainstorming correctly for it to be fully effective.

In this article, we'll look at what brainstorming is, why it's useful, and how to get the best from it.

Learn how to host a group brainstorming session with our video. Click here to view the transcript.

What Is Brainstorming?

Madison Avenue advertising executive Alex Osborn developed the original approach and published it in his 1953 book, "Applied Imagination." [1]

Since then, researchers have made many improvements to his original technique. The approach described here takes this research into account, so it's subtly different from Osborn's approach. [2]

Brainstorming combines a relaxed, informal approach to problem solving with lateral thinking. It encourages people to come up with thoughts and ideas that can, at first, seem a bit crazy. Some of these ideas can be crafted into original, creative solutions to a problem, while others can spark even more ideas. This helps to get people unstuck by "jolting" them out of their normal ways of thinking.

Therefore, during brainstorming sessions, people should avoid criticizing or rewarding ideas. You're trying to open up possibilities and break down incorrect assumptions about the problem's limits. Judgment and analysis at this stage stunts idea generation and limit creativity.

Evaluate ideas at the end of the session – this is the time to explore solutions further, using conventional approaches.

Why Use Brainstorming?

Conventional group problem solving can often be undermined by unhelpful group behavior. And while it's important to start with a structured, analytical process when solving problems, this can lead a group to develop limited and unimaginative ideas.

(Video) Brainstorming Generating Many Radical, Creative Ideas

By contrast, brainstorming provides a free and open environment that encourages everyone to participate. Quirky ideas are welcomed and built upon, and all participants are encouraged to contribute fully, helping them develop a rich array of creative solutions.

Brainstorming: Generating Many Radical, Creative Ideas (1)

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When used during problem solving, brainstorming brings team members' diverse experience into play. It increases the richness of ideas explored, which means that you can often find better solutions to the problems that you face.

It can also help you get buy-in from team members for the solution chosen – after all, they're likely to be more committed to an approach if they were involved in developing it. What's more, because brainstorming is fun, it helps team members bond, as they solve problems in a positive, rewarding environment.

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While brainstorming can be effective, it's important to approach it with an open mind and a spirit of non-judgment. If you don't do this, people "clam up," the number and quality of ideas plummets, and morale can suffer.

How to Use the Tool

You often get the best results by combining individual and group brainstorming, which we explain below, and by managing the process according to the "rules" below. By doing this, you can get people to focus on the issue without interruption, you maximize the number of ideas that you can generate, and you get that great feeling of team bonding that comes with a well-run brainstorming session!

To run a group brainstorming session effectively, follow these steps.

Step 1: Prepare the Group

How much information or preparation does your team need in order to brainstorm solutions to your problem? Remember that prep is important, but too much can limit – or even destroy – the freewheeling nature of a brainstorming session.

First, choose an appropriate and comfortable meeting space. This can be in the office, or virtual. Consider what would work best for your team. Make sure you have the right resources beforehand; you can use virtual brainstorming tools like Miro or LucidSpark, and you'll need pens and Post-Its for an in-person session.

Now consider who will attend the meeting. A brainstorming session full of like-minded people won't generate as many creative ideas as a diverse group, so try to include people from a wide range of disciplines, and include people who have a variety of different thinking styles.

When everyone is gathered, appoint one person to record the ideas that come from the session. This person shouldn't necessarily be the team manager – it's hard to record and contribute at the same time. Post notes where everyone can see them, such as on flip charts or whiteboards; or use a computer with a data projector.

If people aren't used to working together, consider using an appropriate warm-up exercise, or an icebreaker.

Step 2: Present the Problem

Clearly define the problem that you want to solve, and lay out any criteria that you must meet. Make it clear that that the meeting's objective is to generate as many ideas as possible.

Give people plenty of quiet time at the start of the session to generate as many of their own ideas as they can. Then, ask them to share or present their ideas, while giving everyone a fair opportunity to contribute.

Step 3: Guide the Discussion

Once everyone has shared their ideas, start a group discussion to develop other people's ideas, and use them to create new ideas. Building on others' ideas is one of the most valuable aspects of group brainstorming.

Encourage everyone to contribute and to develop ideas, including the quietest people, and discourage anyone from criticizing ideas.

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As the group facilitator, you should share ideas if you have them, but spend your time and energy supporting your team and guiding the discussion. Stick to one conversation at a time, and refocus the group if people become sidetracked.

Although you're guiding the discussion, remember to let everyone have fun while brainstorming. Welcome creativity, and encourage your team to come up with as many ideas as possible, regardless of whether they're practical or impractical. Use thought experiments such as Provocation or Random Input to generate some unexpected ideas.

Don't follow one train of thought for too long. Make sure that you generate a good number of different ideas, and explore individual ideas in detail. If a team member needs to "tune out" to explore an idea alone, allow them the freedom to do this.

Also, if the brainstorming session is lengthy, take plenty of breaks so that people can continue to concentrate.

Individual Brainstorming

While group brainstorming is often more effective at generating ideas than normal group problem solving, several studies have shown that individual brainstorming produces more – and often better – ideas than group brainstorming. [3]

This can occur because groups aren't always strict in following the rules of brainstorming, and bad behaviors creep in. Mostly, though, this happens because people pay so much attention to other people that they don't generate ideas of their own – or they forget these ideas while they wait for their turn to speak. This is called "blocking."

When you brainstorm on your own, you don't have to worry about other people's egos or opinions, and you can be freer and more creative. For example, you might find that an idea you'd hesitate to bring up in a group develops into something special when you explore it on your own.

However, you may not develop ideas as fully when you're on your own, because you don't have the wider experience of other group members to draw on.

Tip:

To get the most out of your individual brainstorming session, choose a comfortable place to sit and think. Minimize distractions so that you can focus on the problem at hand, and consider using Mind Maps to arrange and develop ideas.

Individual brainstorming is most effective when you need to solve a simple problem, generate a list of ideas, or focus on a broad issue. Group brainstorming is often more effective for solving complex problems.

Group Brainstorming

Here, you can take advantage of the full experience and creativity of all team members. When one member gets stuck with an idea, another member's creativity and experience can take the idea to the next stage. You can develop ideas in greater depth with group brainstorming than you can with individual brainstorming.

(Video) Brainstorming Masterclass with Paul Sloane

Another advantage of group brainstorming is that it helps everyone feel that they've contributed to the solution, and it reminds people that others have creative ideas to offer. It's also fun, so it can be great for team building!

Group brainstorming can be risky for individuals. Unusual suggestions may appear to lack value at first sight – this is where you need to chair sessions tightly, so that the group doesn't crush these ideas and stifle creativity.

Where possible, participants should come from a wide range of disciplines. This cross-section of experience can make the session more creative. However, don't make the group too big: as with other types of teamwork, groups of five to seven people are usually most effective.

Other Brainstorming Techniques

If you're not getting enough good quality ideas, try using the approaches below to increase the number of ideas that you generate:

  • The Stepladder Technique – This improves the contribution of quieter group members by introducing one person at a time.
  • Brainwriting – This is a written approach that you can use to encourage all individuals to generate and develop ideas.
  • Online Brainstorming (also known as Brain-netting) – An electronic method of brainstorming, this uses a document stored on a central server, or on a Cloud-based system.
  • Crawford's Slip Writing Approach – You can use this approach to get plenty of ideas from all participants, and to get a view of each idea's popularity.

These techniques help you in specific situations:

  • Reverse Brainstorming – This is used to improve a product or service.
  • Starbursting – Starbursting helps you develop questions that you need to ask to evaluate a proposal.
  • Charette Procedure – This helps you brainstorm with large groups of people. (Conventional brainstorming becomes increasingly ineffective when more than 10 or 12 people are involved.)
  • Round-Robin Brainstorming – You can use this approach to get people to contribute ideas without being influenced by others.
  • Rolestorming – This technique encourages group members to take on other people's identities while brainstorming, thereby reducing their inhibitions.

The Next Step – Taking Action

After your individual or group brainstorming session, you'll have a lot of ideas. Although it might seem hard to sort through these ideas to find the best ones, analyzing these ideas is an important next step, and you can use several tools to do this.

Use Affinity Diagrams to organize ideas and find common themes.

Decision Matrix Analysis and Paired Comparison Analysis will help you choose between different options. You can also use the Six Thinking Hats technique to look at ideas from different perspectives; and the Modified Borda Count and Multi-Voting can help you choose between options as a team, particularly where the differences between options are quite subjective.

Key Points

When managed well, brainstorming can help you generate radical solutions to problems. It can also encourage people to commit to solutions, because they have provided input and played a role in developing them.

The best approach combines individual and group brainstorming. During the process, there should be no criticism of ideas, and creativity should be encouraged.

FAQs

Does brainstorming increase creative ideas? ›

Brainstorming combines a relaxed, informal approach to problem solving with lateral thinking. It encourages people to come up with thoughts and ideas that can, at first, seem a bit crazy. Some of these ideas can be crafted into original, creative solutions to a problem, while others can spark even more ideas.

Which brainstorming technique helps to generate ideas quickly? ›

10 effective team brainstorming techniques
  • Brainwriting. ...
  • Rapid ideation. ...
  • Figure storming. ...
  • Eidetic image method. ...
  • Online brainstorming, aka brain netting. ...
  • Round-robin brainstorming. ...
  • Step-ladder technique. ...
  • Mind mapping.
Oct 16, 2019

What are the 4 types of brainstorming? ›

The 4 Types of Brainstorming
  • Reverse Brainstorming. A creative problem-solving technique in which the problem is turned around and considered from a different point of view to spur new and different solutions.
  • Stop-and-Go Brainstorming. ...
  • Phillips 66 Brainstorming. ...
  • Brainwriting.

What are the advantages of brainstorming? ›

Benefits of Brainstorming

Brainstorming gives the class a chance to tap into their previous knowledge and form connections between the current topic and what they have already learned. It also encourages them to listen and consider others' ideas, thereby showing respect for their fellow classmates.

Why is brainstorming beneficial? ›

Brainstorming allows people to think more freely, without fear of judgment. Brainstorming encourages open and ongoing collaboration to solve problems and generate innovative ideas. Brainstorming helps teams generate a large number of ideas quickly, which can be refined and merged to create the ideal solution.

What is creative brainstorming? ›

Brainstorming is a group creativity technique by which efforts are made to find a conclusion for a specific problem by gathering a list of ideas spontaneously contributed by its members.

What is the brainstorming process? ›

Brainstorming is a method of generating ideas and sharing knowledge to solve a particular commercial or technical problem, in which participants are encouraged to think without interruption. Brainstorming is a group activity where each participant shares their ideas as soon as they come to mind.

What is brainstorming explain? ›

Brainstorming is a group problem-solving method that involves the spontaneous contribution of creative ideas and solutions. This technique requires intensive, freewheeling discussion in which every member of the group is encouraged to think aloud and suggest as many ideas as possible based on their diverse knowledge.

Is brainstorming a strategy? ›

Brainstorming is a strategy used to generate a number of ideas to help solve a particular problem. The technique has been around for over 70 years and is still used today to engage students in solving a range of problems. Techniques vary but there is a general structure to follow when developing brainstorming sessions.

How is brainstorming used? ›

Brainstorming is a way to generate ideas within a group setting. It is usually used in the beginning stages of a project, where the possibilities for the project are not clearly understood or defined. It provides a quick means for tapping the creativity of a limited number of people for a large number of ideas.

What is the characteristics of brainstorming? ›

Characteristic of Brainstorming

It is an intellectual activity. Maximum or all students can participate. Each student gives their personal view/ideas. Each idea is neither right nor wrong.

What are 5 types of brainstorming? ›

Let's dive into seven easy brainstorming techniques that encourage collaboration while eliminating judgment.
  • Brain Writing. ...
  • Figuring Storming. ...
  • Online Brainstorming (Brain-netting) ...
  • Rapid Ideation. ...
  • Round Robin Brainstorming. ...
  • Starbursting. ...
  • Stepladder Technique.
May 31, 2022

What is the impact of brainstorming? ›

Brainstorming combines a relaxed, informal approach to problem solving with lateral thinking. It encourages people to come up with thoughts and ideas that can, at first, seem a bit crazy. Some of these ideas can be crafted into original, creative solutions to a problem, while others can spark even more ideas.

Why is brainstorming important in the writing process? ›

Brainstorming helps writers generate more ideas before beginning to write about a topic. It can also help reduce writing anxiety and focus attention on the most relevant content when writing. Brainstorming is an essential step before outlining the major points needed to create a well-organized essay.

What is brainstorming in critical thinking? ›

Brainstorming is an essential part of critical thinking and a tool that people use to invent an idea, find a solution to a problem, or answer a question.

How can I improve my imagination and creativity? ›

We like these 10 ways to increase imagination for better creative thinking by Operation Meditation:
  1. Open your mind to unexplored paths. ...
  2. Read more. ...
  3. Tell stories. ...
  4. Be curious. ...
  5. Don't be afraid to try something new. ...
  6. Expand your interests. ...
  7. Develop your talents. ...
  8. Spend time with creative people.

Why you should generate ideas? ›

The purpose of generating new ideas is about improving what already exists as well as coming up with something new. Often when trying to solve a problem or approaching a new opportunity, people use existing solutions or mental models instead of trying to come up with new ones.

What is the creative thinking? ›

Creative thinking is the ability to consider something in a new way. Creative thinking includes analysis, open-mindedness, problem-solving, organization, and communication. Many employers value creative thinkers, so consider highlighting your creative thinking skills on your resume and in interviews.

What does it mean to generate ideas? ›

What is idea generation. Idea generation is “the process of creating, developing, and communicating ideas which are abstract, concrete or visual.” As the first stage in the idea management funnel, idea generation simply focuses on identifying solutions for a problem.

What kind of skill is creativity? ›

Creativity is the ability to think about a task or a problem in a new or different way, or the ability to use the imagination to generate new ideas. Creativity enables you to solve complex problems or find interesting ways to approach tasks. If you are creative, you look at things from a unique perspective.

Why is creativity and imagination important? ›

Imagination fosters cognitive and social development. Everyone wants to raise children who reach their highest intellectual and social/emotional potential. In early childhood education, critical thinking skills and creative problem-solving abilities are goals for children's development.

Videos

1. Elon Musk: Idea Generation
(Lex Clips)
2. How to Get More Than 1000 Ideas?
(INSPIRATION FOR INNOVATION)
3. How to create a radical future | Nesta talks to... Sir Geoff Mulgan
(Nesta - The UK's Innovation Agency)
4. Advanced Brainstorm Techniques - learn Management
(Elly Anneliese)
5. How to run a more productive Brainstorming session by Dr Ken Hudson
(Dr Ken Hudson)
6. Ideation Techniques
(Schuster Engineering)

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